Aiton Court: Relocating Conservation between Poverty and Modern Idealism





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


Aiton Court, in Johannesburg, is a case study in how heritage and economics clash in economically constrained cities. This iconic and formally innovative Modern apartment block from 1937 is located in an area where the income levels of tenants are now very low. Although the building is protected by legislation, the viability of its restoration is being further tested by a rent boycott. The article covers the building’s history, and questions how to approach its conservation differently, given the strong demand for housing at a cost level that would be excluded by purely market–led gentrification. We propose that locating conservation strategies in relation to the building’s history and to other subsidies aimed at the public good may provide other routes to preserving Aiton Court.

How to Cite

Roux, H. L., Hart, B., & Mayat, Y. (2013). Aiton Court: Relocating Conservation between Poverty and Modern Idealism. Docomomo Journal, (48), 56–61.




Author Biographies

Hannah Le Roux, University of the Witwatersrand

Teaches, practices, curates and writes about architecture. She is an academic at the School of Architecture and Planning of the University of the Witwatersrand. As an architect in practice, she has worked on private and public projects including consulting on the redesign of public space in Alexandra and Johannesburg’s inner city. Her current research, “Lived Modernism”, is based on the observation of change in time of Modern spaces, and proposes and maps designerly practices that catalyze the social appropriation of space.

Brendan Hart, University of the Witwatersrand

Obtained his architectural degrees at the University of the Witwatersrand and co–founded Mayat Hart Architects, an architectural and heritage consultancy. He teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand and studied a Masters of Philosophy in the Conservation of the Built Environment through the University of Cape Town.

Yasmin Mayat

Qualified as an architect at the University of the Witwatersrand after completing a BSc at the University of Cape Town. She co–founded Mayat Hart Architects where she combines her interest in heritage with an interest in the history and identity of the diverse communities of Johannesburg. She also studied a Masters of Philosophy in the Conservation of the Built Environment through the University of Cape Town.


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